Labor-Relations Agency Goes Rogue; NLRB Contravenes Own Rules to Boost Unions

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

Labor-Relations Agency Goes Rogue; NLRB Contravenes Own Rules to Boost Unions


Byline: Geoffrey Burr, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Having lured in viewers with the promise of an open meeting but then cloistered themselves away in another government conference room and broadcast their discussion by closed-circuit television last week, two members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) pushed through troubling new union-organizing rules that are favorable to big labor but harmful to both employees and employers.

The decades-old agency, which is charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act guaranteeing the right of workers to join or not join a union, is down to just two Democratic appointees and one Republican. Heading into last Wednesday's meeting, the Democratic duopoly were tight-lipped about their plans for a new rule, but the anti-employer, anti-employee outcome spoke volumes about whose agenda is being enacted at the board.

The board proclaimed that it would not include a provision in its final rule to require that pre-election hearings take place within seven days. Previously, when a union was attempting to organize a workplace, the employees had an average of about 38 days before an election. Instead, the board reduced the period to 10 days. Such a short time would mean employees would have virtually no chance of getting enough information before casting their vote, and small businesses would be severely limited in educating their employees without running afoul of the agency's often arcane and complex rules.

It took public outcry, including many of the 65,000-plus public comments the board received, to cause the agency to dispense with its plan for a seven-day limit and not require employers to disclose employees' phone and email addresses, as it had planned originally. However, the board said it would impose new rules that would substantially limit the issues an employer could raise in the pre-election hearing and curb an employer's right of appeal. As a result, in many cases, neither employers nor employees will know which employees will be in any final bargaining unit prior to the vote, and the election period likely will be chopped down.

What may have seemed like a minor victory for employees and employers was immediately turned on its head, however, as NLRB member (and longtime union strategist and attorney) Craig Becker said his allies at the board field offices should be able to implement much of the original proposed rule, despite the more streamlined approach, through agency best practices. …

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